Meet our Children’s Support Staff: Kayla & Lily!
Domestic Violence Affects Children
When it comes to domestic violence, children are often the forgotten victims. Whether or not the violence is taken out on children, simply witnessing it can have deep, lasting effects.
In the US, more than 15 million children live in homes in which domestic violence has happened at least one time. As adults, they are at a much higher risk for repeating these acts by entering into abusive relationships or becoming abusers themselves. For example, a boy who sees his mother being abused is 10 times more likely to abuse his female partner as an adult. A girl who grows up in a home where her father abuses her mother is more than six times as likely to be sexually abused as a girl who grows up in a non-abusive home. 
Helping children heal from the trauma they’ve experienced and hold inside is vital. One of the best ways we can help is to offer support, because the mental health of a child is just as important as their physical health.
Who’s Who on the Children’s Support Team?
At WC&S, we are thrilled to offer a new Children’s Support Team for those we serve! Kayla, our Children’s Counselor and Lily, our Children’s Support Advocate. They both have impressive backgrounds, making them great new additions!
Kayla has been working with us for over 3 years as a Children’s Advocate while obtaining her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. As she completed her degree, the position was created and she could not have been a more perfect candidate!
Lily is new to us, but has plenty of experience to be an outstanding member of our staff. She earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work. Before joining our team, Lily worked as a nanny, a mental health counselor, and with numerous children’s programs and advocacy positions.
The Services We Offer
The Children’s Support Team offers quite a few valuable services.
Both Kayla and Lily work together to provide support-based, therapeutic groups for shelter clients. These groups are split into groups for mothers and groups for children, and are designed to be safe, comfortable places to genuinely connect with others. “One of our main goals is to ensure that there is consistency between the child’s home life and their new shelter life,” said Kayla. “Consistency is incredibly important for children!”
Kayla’s primary role is individual counseling for children ages 5-17 years old. The “kiddos” as she loves to refer to them, can be resident or non-resident clients, as long as their parents are or have been served by WC&S. Children can still be seen by Kayla even after exiting shelter. Along with individual counseling and groups, Kayla also supports our monthly Trauma Information Series.
Lily’s focus is not only on the children we serve, but their mothers, too. She works with the Children’s Advocates, providing childcare and support for all of the kids’ necessities. She also helps to ensure that the children are enrolled in school and have transportation to and from school. What differentiates Lily’s role from the other Children’s Advocates is her ability to provide parental and behavioral support. She provides assessments to identify issues and needs, and meets with the mothers individually to address behavioral concerns and parenting tools/strategies. Lily also holds Teen Nights, a time for teens to unwind and enjoy themselves by watching movies, partaking in different activities, and having great conversation.
What They Enjoy Most About Their Positions
Both Kayla and Lily love what they do and the families they work with, but some parts easily extend as their favorite. For Kayla, helping the kiddos to find their resilience, strength, and tools they have to get through tough times makes her job most gratifying. The level of connection Lily is able to establish with both children and mothers is her favorite part of her position. Seeing the level of connection pay off, such as a particularly bashful child remembering her name, is most rewarding to her.
A Day in the Life of a Child at Women’s Center & Shelter
“Mom seems really upset lately. I asked her what was wrong, and she didn’t answer me. She used to always greet me with a smile when I got back from school, which I never see anymore. I think she’s afraid of Dad; he always gets really angry when he’s around her. They always tell me to go up to my room but I can hear the yelling from there. Mom never seems to yell back and just listens. I want to ask and know what’s wrong, but Mom would never tell me. It’s hard to fall asleep sometimes; usually I’m worried that Mom is sad. Being at home makes me sad too, because I’m scared of all the yelling. I want to help Mom, but have no idea what to do.”
Domestic violence affects children, too. At Women’s Center & Shelter, the goal of our Children’s Program is to help children feel safe and explore their feelings in a positive environment. While the mothers are discussing housing, employment, and other pressing concerns, children are able to feel safe and cared for. The Program has many activities that promote physical, emotional, interpersonal, and social wellness for each child, all while giving them the support they need to cope with trauma and heal in a steady and positive manner. Here at WC&S, we help children all the way from birth up to and including age seventeen (for young men). What are the different types of support we offer for the children?
Children talking about the way they feel is instrumental in the recovery and moving forward from witnessing domestic abuse. Our Child Advocates provide daily check-ins with the children so they’re able to express how they’re feeling and receive the help and support they need. The children also receive information about domestic violence; however, all of the information is age-appropriate and provided to the children only at the right time. If extra counseling is needed, the children are referred to counseling resources to help them cope with their emotions. Some types of therapy we provide here at WC&S are music and writing therapy.
On-site programming is offered before and after school through the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, to help make sure kids are performing to the best of their abilities. There is access to tutoring, reading programs, a Computer Learning Center at WC&S. We also offer a library full of books and school supplies for those who need them!
Interpersonal and Social support
To help the children socialize, have fun, and just be kids, we offer field trips and summer camps, letting kids build connections and friendships. In August, we host our annual Children’s Festival, as well as ongoing events scheduled with our partner organizations such as Lab Rats, Carnegie Museum, the Dreaming Pillow Project, and Beverly’s Birthdays. Volunteers at WC&S often host children’s parties, with games, arts and crafts, treats, and activities. Many of the activities include celebrating cultural diversity, which allows the children to recognize and embrace their diverse backgrounds!
Advocacy and Referrals
Many of our community partners allow for connections to medications, clothing, prescription eyeglasses, and other necessities. We offer contact with school advocacy services, and facilitate school enrollment and transportation. We also provide access to a pediatrician and dentist for children staying in Emergency Shelter.
“Mom seems so much happier now. There is no more yelling, so I can finally get a good night’s sleep. I saw her smile for the first time in forever; I missed her being happy. I was finally able to talk to someone and tell them how the entire situation at home made me feel. They understood how scary it was and taught me ways to make myself feel better. I still get to do all of my schoolwork, and get help from people when my homework is too hard. I have met some other kids here, and look forward to the fun field trips we get to go on together! Most importantly, I feel safe here at the Shelter, as does Mom, and we don’t have to live in fear anymore!”